28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
It is John who gave us the well-known teaching from Jesus, “Abide in me.” Here he gives us more indication of what that means. John really liked the verb he is using here. Of the 118 times the word is used in the New Testament, it occurs some 40 times in John’s Gospel, and another 24 times here in this little letter. The word is meno, and it means simply to stay, remain, abide, wait, etc. But what does it mean to abide in Christ?
On the one hand this is a simple concept. We are to abide, stay, remain, etc. in Christ. But people can take that idea and make it mean anything they want. More important than “living our life” with our idea of Christ, we need to be anchored in who He really is. And we don’t want to “stay” or stagnate in a single understanding of Him. We want to grow in our grasp of the implications of the Gospel.
(An interesting aside. My grandfather was pretty passionate about this whole concept. He saw the loss of understanding and use of the term “abide” as a loss for our understanding of the life in Christ. For him, the difference between “abide” and “live with” was an argument worth having. I wonder if we might not have lost some depth in English as “live with” overtook “abide”” around 1928, and “dwell” in 1970.)
Here in 1 John, we see that abiding in Christ has everything to do with teaching, with truth. John has just warned his readers against “antichrists.” Who are these antichrists? They are those who were a part of the churches that John was leading, but who had left the churches to follow a different teaching. Had they belonged to the fellowship of believers, “they would have remained.” (v.19)
John tells the church that they, instead, should let the teaching they heard from the beginning “abide in” them. Then they will “abide in the Son and in the Father.” (v.24) He also reminds them that the “anointing that you received from Him abides in you,” and that this anointing teaches you everything that is true.” (v.27)
The believer is to remain in the truth of the Gospel that they heard concerning Jesus, the teaching that has been handed down from Him. And this truth, this teaching, will remain in the believer because God Himself will teach and remind the believer of that truth.